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The choice overload effect emerged as a rebuttal to the notion that having more options from which to choose is always preferable. Jessup, Veinott, Todd, and Busemeyer (2009) used a modified version of decision field theory, a cognitive process model of choice, to generate multiple mechanisms based on psychological principles for the choice overload effect as it pertains to choice probability. Here we experimentally tested 2 of these mechanisms—time out and preference change—in a virtual hiring task to see whether participants hired more applicants when choosing from small relative to large sets of applicants. We further wanted to observe how the distribution of options affected choice. The choice overload effect replicated. More importantly, we observed that the time out mechanism did indeed account for choice overload effects, whereas the conflict-based preference change mechanism did not. Model fitting via simulation provided converging support because the time-out model provided a superior fit relative to the preference change model. This further demonstrates the value of utilizing models that incorporate underlying cognitive processes when exploring behaviors of interest to psychology, marketing, economics, and other related disciplines.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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